Background: Microsatellites are widely used for many genetic studies. In contrast to single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) and genotyping-by-sequencing methods, they are readily typed in samples of low DNA quality/concentration (e.g. museum/non-invasive samples), and enable the quick, cheap identification of species, hybrids, clones and ploidy. Microsatellites also have the highest cross-species utility of all types of markers used for genotyping, but, despite this, when isolated from a single species, only a relatively small proportion will be of utility. Marker development of any type requires skill and time. The availability of sufficient "off-the-shelf" markers that are suitable for genotypinga wide range of species would not only save resources but also uniquely enablenew comparisons of diversity among taxa at the same set of loci. No other marker types are capable of enabling this. We therefore developed a set of avianmicrosatellite markers with enhanced cross-species utility. Results: We selected highly-conserved sequences with a high number of repeat units in both of two genetically distant species. Twenty-four primer sets were designed from homologous sequences that possessed at least eight repeat units in both the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata) and chicken (Gallus gallus). Each primer sequence was a complete match to zebra finch and, after accounting for degenerate bases, at least 86% similar to chicken. We assessed primer-set utilityby genotyping individuals belonging to eight passerine and four non-passerinespecies. The majority of the new Conserved Avian Microsatellite (CAM) markersamplified in all 12 species tested (on average, 94% in passerines and 95% in non-passerines). This new marker set is of especially high utility in passerines, with amean 68% of loci polymorphic per species, compared with 42% in non-passerinespecies. Conclusions: When combined with previously described conserved loci, this new set of conserved markers will not only reduce the necessity and expense ofmicrosatellite isolation for a wide range of genetic studies, including avianparentage and population analyses, but will also now enable comparisons ofgenetic diversity among different species (and populations) at the same set of loci, with no or reduced bias. Finally, the approach used here can be applied to other taxa in which appropriate genome sequences are available.
2013. Vol. 14, no 1, 176- p.